Regular Toothpaste or Gel Toothpaste: What’s the Difference, Anyway?

A pair of dentists help us weigh up the pros, and the surprising lack of cons.

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I’m terrible at making decisions, which might explain why I spent 20 minutes in the oral care section of the pharmacy the other day just trying to figure out all the toothpaste options. Specifically, I was trying to decide between regular toothpaste and gel toothpaste, which was pretty much impossible since I have no idea what the difference is.

To figure out the answer, I called celebrity cosmetic dentist Bill Dorfman. He told me that—unlike the other gel vs. paste question we’ve had here at Dollar Shave Club—it really just boils down to personal preference: In every way that matters, regular toothpastes and gel toothpastes are nearly identical.

“There actually isn’t a huge difference between the gel and toothpaste formulas as long as they contain fluoride,” Dorfman explains. “Combined with brushing and flossing, fluoride is the best way to combat tooth decay.”

The only real differences between regular toothpastes and gel toothpastes, then, are their taste, appearance and texture. “Pastes are thicker in texture,” Dorfman says. “Gels tend to be less abrasive and are made with silica to create a clear texture—they don’t create the nice foamy texture that you get from a paste. So if you’re a messy brusher, gels create less spatter.”

So does Dorfman himself have a preference? “Personally, I prefer pastes,” he says. “They go on thicker and make my mouth feel cleaner. But you’ll get the same result no matter which one you choose, provided they contain fluoride,” Dorfman reiterates.

Dentist Michelle Ashcraft seconds this notion: “I tell my patients to use whatever feels and tastes the best to them, since a person will hopefully brush longer and more thoroughly with a dentifrice that they enjoy.”

And if you really can’t decide…